Campaign Trail: John McCain Spells Out The Answers For Us
From the Associated Press:
Crowd's Questions Indicate Senator's Presidential Bid May Be Tied Closely to War
By Dan Balz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 18, 2007; A08
DES MOINES, Feb. 17 -- The war in Iraq followed Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) to Iowa on Saturday, as the Republican presidential candidate faced a series of skeptical questions about the lack of progress in the conflict and whether he or anyone has a plan for success.
…there was no escaping a debate over the war, even before a largely Republican audience that included veterans of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, and their relatives.
…(McCain) said Americans are understandably frustrated because of overly optimistic expectations raised by defenders of the war.
"We raised people's expectations -- 'mission accomplished,' 'few dead-enders,' 'last throes' -- all of those comments that made Americans believe that we were on the verge of getting this thing done," he said. Instead, he added, the war has been a "long, tough struggle that we should have told the American people about."
…McCain said he has no fallback plan if the policy of sending an additional 21,500 troops to Iraq fails…
…A man who said his son had served in Afghanistan and Iraq challenged McCain to explain what it would cost the country to succeed in Iraq. McCain said he didn't know...
…"In terms of dollars and lives, I can't give you an estimate, except to say, sir, I think it's going to be very expensive," he said, "but not as expensive as the bloodletting, the killing fields that will take place in Baghdad if we just left…"
…"Whether you like him or not, McCain has been consistent on issues," Senator John Thune (R-S.D.) said.
(We take you now to the McCain campaign strategy meeting—held the night before that question and answer session in Iowa--where Senator McCain is being prepped by aides for the kind of questions he will be receiving the next day.)
Aide: Okay, Senator. Suppose someone at the question and answer session stands up and asks you why the country isn’t supporting the Iraq war anymore?
McCain: Uhh…I tell him it’s because we’ve been lying to the American public all along.
Aide: Very good! You want to spin that answer out a bit?
McCain: Sure. I say, uh, that for years we’ve been lying to the public about how the war’s going, we gave them false hope with all that -- 'mission accomplished,' 'few dead-enders,' 'last throes' – bullshit, all of those comments that made Americans believe that we were on the verge of getting this thing done—
Aide: Excellent, but lose the word “bullshit,” say “raised false expectations,” instead. They’ll take that to mean “bullshit.” Otherwise, perfect!
McCain: Okay. Gimme the next question.
Aide: Right. Someone in the audience asks you: “Senator McCain—if this surge of 21,500 US troops you supported doesn’t work, what is your fallback plan?”
McCain: I say, “I haven’t got one. I haven’t got a fallback plan.”
Aide: Perfect. That answer is gonna go over VERY big with these voters, believe you me. Now—
McCain: Are you sure this is going to work? This “I don’t know, I can’t say, we were lying, I don’t have a plan” stuff?
Aide: It’ll work like a charm. That’s what the voters want from Republicans right now—candor. Anyway, let’s keep going, answer this one: A man in the audience stands up and tells you he’s got a son serving in Iraq and Afghanistan and he asks you “What would it take for this country to succeed in Iraq?”
McCain: I tell him “I don’t know.”
Aide: Right! Because?
McCain: Because I DON’T know.
Aide: Exactly! And if he asks you how much it’s going to cost in dollars and cents?
McCain: “I don’t know.”
Aide: And if he asks you how much it’s going to cost in American lives?
McCain: “I don’t know.” Can I tell him it will cost MORE in dollars and American lives if we pull out now?
Aide: Yes, but what if he asks you “How do you know that?”
McCain: I say, “I don’t know.”
Aide: Would you launch a pre-emptive strike against Iran to destroy their nuclear program?
McCain: “I don’t know. I don’t have a plan.”
Aide: Brilliant. You stick to these kind of answers, the nomination’s in the bag, Senator.
Aide: Because no one will ever be able to say “John McCain is inconsistent on the issues.” You NEVER knew the goddamn answer to ANYTHING.